For the third in this week’s Say It For You blog series sharing writing tips from different books, let’s tackle an old dilemma – pronoun gender. The Little Red Writing Book advises “Keep your writing gender neutral.” The question is: How can we blog content writers stay grammatically and yet politically “correct”?
For starters, corporate blogging for business is a pretty new, modern method of communicating with potential customers, so the last thing business bloggers want is to sound old-fashioned, using “he” and “him” when referring to a person who might be either a “he” or a “she”.
You remember that old joke where a person knocks at the gates of Heaven and St. Peter asks “who’s there?”. The reply, “It is I. “Go away!” says St. Peter. “We have enough English teachers here.”
In corporate blogging training, I continually stress how important it is to know your target readers. If you’re writing blog content targeted at new mothers, for example, using “she” and “her” is appropriate. Otherwise, advise the authors, use “they” and “them”. (“One” goes back to the English teacher-trying-to-get-into-heaven problem.)
If you’re providing business blogging assistance to companies with clients of both sexes, The Little Red Writing Book has some good advice about acceptable ways to approach certain “politically sensitive” terms:
Instead of “TV anchorman”, write “TV anchor”, “fire fighter”, not “fireman”, “police officer”, not “policeman”, and “spokesperson” rather than “spokesman”. On the other side of things, it’s better to use “homemaker” than “housewife” and “flight attendant” rather than “stewardess”.
When it comes right down to it, people aren’t concerned about remembering your web address or even your brand, says Chris Baggott, CEO of Compendium Blogware." With whom do consumers want to do business? As market research overwhelmingly demonstrates, "People like me", Baggott points out.
As a professional ghost blogger for so many different kinds of companies, I’ve found that it’s best to use “you” and “your”, conversing directly with those online visitors, who are, after all, asking themselves “What’s in it for ME?”